Things not to do in shareware software

I think that I have tried 30 or 40 small Mac applications so far, for various purposes. I try out apps by completely switching to it for a period of time. I’m not running it with my existing app. Thus, it must be able to pickup already existing data (the way how it is done is irrelevant) and to have no restriction on usage during that period. Only that way I’ll be able to decide does it fits me and should I buy it or not.

I wrote a bit about it in my first post about switching to Mac and mentioned that some Mac developers have a tendency toward severe limitations in the trial mode. I honestly believe that this is hurting their sales and does not prevent pirating they work.

Examples are various.

Newsfire limits the number of subscriptions to 15. This is a severe limit. My subscriptions count is over 100 and I certainly did not want to read my feeds in two different apps. It just felt as waste of time. It also could not import my existing data. NetNewsWire on the other hand imported everything and did not even bother me at all, not even a nag screen. A sure winner and naturally I bought after 10 days of using it.

Newsfire limits you just 15 subscriptions. Too little.

Coda offers just 14 days of testing period. For such a powerful application that promises to do many things, that is way too short. I think that proper testing of a development environment app will require me doing a whole project with it. Not a quicky of few days - a larger project spanning several weeks. As it is, I don’t know will I be able to give it such testing.

CSSEdit will not let you save files over 2500 characters. This is very severe restriction. I bought it, but only because I had previous many-years-long experience with TopStylePro on Windows and CSSEdit reminded me so much of it, so I decided to go with it. If it wasn’t for TSP experience, I would never have bought it and would ditch it after less than a day. A great app, but dumb limitation that could prevent you to realize that.

xTorrent is driving me crazy with this black hole on the monitor screen.

Then there are apps that are so annoying with nag screens, that they prevent you to even use it properly. xTorrent is prime example I have seen so far. This black dialog is impossible to close and it is impossible to even move outside the viewport - it slides back in when one tries that. Extremely annoying, I trashed it just after two runs.

Nag screens on startup, even those that countdown 10s or something, are ok. I can wait it out. But let me use it after that’s over, don’t bug when I’m trying it out.

Newsfire wastes good chunk of the screen real estate for the registration nag

I can understand the frustration that piracy brings to developers, especially small ones. But I came to conclusion that the most effective thing you can do is to just be polite. I would even go against time limiting, as it’s not worthwhile. Remind the user that he needs to register and that’s it.

If he does not want to pay, he will easily find a crack, patch or whatever. Or uninstall and use something else. If you just let him use the program, he might just get so hooked to it that he will eventually pay it.

This is what happened with me and Total Commander on Windows. TC will show you a nag screen on each startup until you register. Even when 21 days pass (the trial mode limit), it will not stop working. It will not disable anything. I used for few years before actually paying for it. I did not have any means to pay for it when I started using it. But when I had, I not only bought the license but recommended it to anyone who would listen. I would install it religiously to any remote server I worked on in client premises. This insistence lead to one large client buying multiple copies. The company I work in bought 100 licenses (not just thanks to me).

TC is that good. It’s the perfect example of how shareware apps should work.